Throughout the history of philosophy, many thinkers have urged that some fundamental philosophical concepts are universal–used by all rational people. Historians and anthropologists have often been skeptical of these claims. Recently, cultural psychologists and experimental philosophers have begun to explore empirically whether fundamental philosophical concepts are shared across cultures. The results of these studies have been fascinating and provocative, though they are far from definitive. This Planning Grant proposal will support the preparation of a grant proposal for a project that has 4 interrelated goals.
1.To move this inquiry forward and to launch a new way of engaging in the analysis of philosophical concepts by dramatically expanding the methodologies used, the range of cultures considered, and the cultural and disciplinary diversity of the investigators engaged in the inquiry.
2.To assemble culturally and intellectually diverse teams of researchers who will use the methods of a number of disciplines to design and execute research aimed at determining the extent to which conceptions of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, person and human agent are universal or culturally variable. The disciplines we will involve in this project are analytic & continental philosophy, comparative philosophy, cultural studies, world history, linguistics, anthropology, cultural psychology, social psychology, and social cognitive neuroscience. The interdisciplinary teams we will assemble will form the nucleus of the new, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary approach to the study of philosophical concepts.
3.To present the findings both in scholarly publications and in publications and videos accessible to the non-specialist.
4.To initiate discussion about the implications of the findings about the universality and cultural variability of philosophical concepts for venerable philosophical debates and for practical contemporary issues that turn on cross-cultural understanding.